CW: disordered eating, body dysmorphia
It’s mid-summer, which means vacations, pool days, barbecues, and spending time outside.
It also means wearing shorts and swimsuits and spending a lot of time eating around others.
Summer was always so much fun when I was younger. I loved swimming, running around in the sprinkler, grilling out with family and friends, and just generally doing all the typical summer activities you do as a kid. I never thought about the way people perceived me. I didn’t think about whether my bathing suit was too revealing or not revealing enough, if people could see my stretch marks and cellulite when I wore shorts, if my knees looked weird when I wore a certain dress or skirt, if my stomach would look too big after eating while wearing a swimsuit, if I was too pale, if my skin was clear enough to wear no makeup while swimming.
I didn’t think about any of those things, and I didn’t care. I just wanted to have fun on summer vacation.
As I got older, warmer weather began to terrify me. I became so concerned with being perceived as perfect that I couldn’t enjoy summers anymore. I’d worry so much about being thin enough to wear shorts, skirts, or dresses that I’d be physically uncomfortable wearing them in public. In high school, I developed cystic acne and couldn’t stand to look at my own reflection. I started wearing a full face of makeup everywhere I went. I wouldn’t let anyone see me without it. I stopped going swimming. I stopped spending time outside. I stopped doing all the things I loved doing because of my fear of being judged for the body I live in.
For years, I struggled with disordered eating and body dysmorphia. I became obsessed with being thin and having the “perfect” body. I wanted so badly to be perceived as having it all together, but I was crumbling on the inside.
At some point, it stopped just being about wanting to be thin. It started being about control. I didn’t eat because food was something I could be entirely in charge of. I’d challenge myself to fast for days on end, and if I slipped up, I would punish myself by excessively exercising. I didn’t listen to my body and recognize its needs. I didn’t love myself enough for that.
There came a point in my experience with disordered eating that I had to make a change. I was dying from malnutrition, and I couldn’t hide it anymore. My parents recognized what was happening and encouraged me to get help, and I did. I started going to therapy for depression, anxiety and disordered eating. I slowly realized that if I kept letting my fear of food rule my life, I wouldn’t have a life for much longer.
Recovering from an eating disorder isn’t that easy, though. It’s not as if you wake up one day and it’s just gone. It took years of hard work to get where I am today, and I recognize that I’m still in recovery. As much progress as I’ve made, I know there’s still work to be done. I’d love to say that I wake up each day and love my body unconditionally, but I don’t. I still see flaws, stretch marks, cellulite, a stomach that doesn’t lay flat, blemishes that I feel need to be covered up. The difference is that now when I see those imperfections, I don’t hate myself for them. I accept them as part of the human experience. I’m not perfect, but no one is, and that’s okay.
We are given one body, and we have to love and nurture it for our entire lives. Our bodies carry us through everything, and they deserve to be appreciated for their hard work. When I look at my body today, I see legs that aren’t long and thin, but have held me up and walked me through my toughest days. I see thighs that touch when I stand with my feet together but can support me as I climb towards mental and physical wellness. I see a stomach that doesn’t lay flat even when I suck in, but that sustains me and holds nutrients. I see shoulders that are a little too broad but can carry all my burdens. I see a face with imperfect skin but still smiles back at myself and everyone I meet.
Of course, there are things I wish I could change about my body. At the end of the day, though, my body has gotten me everywhere I’ve needed to go and has supported me through everything I’ve done.
I’m slowly learning to love, respect, and appreciate my body and my skin for all it does.
As the summer continues, take some time to recognize all that your body does for you and give it the love it deserves.
As always, stay safe + stay healthy.